Kobe Bryant has turned his filter completely off in his later years in the NBA, and the latest evidence of such came when he told ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullen that Dwight Howard needs to for all intents and purposes shut up and play instead of worrying about his torn labrum.
“We don’t have time for (Howard’s shoulder) to heal,” Bryant said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan. “We need some urgency.”
He’s right, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have time at 23-26 and with big man Pau Gasol slated to miss significant time with a torn plantar fascia. At this point, all of their focus needs to be on digging deep to find every last resource imaginable in order to get into the playoffs.
Ironically, head coach Mike D’Antoni has featured Gasol less than anyone ever has over the course of the Spaniard’s career. But he had come on strong in Howard’s recent absence, averaging 23.3 points per game in the three full games he played in prior to the injury. Now, the Lakers are stuck with a battered Howard as the focal point once again — if he’ll gut it out and play. And that’s another story altogether.
Bryant, though, isn’t patient and he isn’t mincing words. Whether or not there was a feud before, there’s all the makings of one to develop if Howard continues to take his time returning from injury. That ever-precious item, time, is something that the 34-year-old Bryant doesn’t have a lot of. He understands that even the misfit group he’s playing with today is his best realistic chance at an elusive sixth NBA title.
Howard has a lot of money invested in his body, and stands to make a lot more of it this summer as a free agent, so it behooves him to take care of himself and not risk further damage. But there’s a fine line to consider here. If it’s simply a pain tolerance issue and Howard can’t hurt himself any further by playing through it, then Bryant has every right to light a fire under the team’s alleged franchise center.
What will become of these issues given the fact that these comments from Bryant went public? It can go one of two ways:
Either Howard gets the message, puts the team first and plays through the pain, or he shuts it down in hopes of getting completely better, leaving the team with Robert Sacre as the incumbent starter in the middle. Robert. Sacre.
Somehow, this could all get uglier.